Alabama grapples with redistricting

Published 11:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

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Alabama’s legislature has until Friday to submit a redrawn congressional map that provides fair district voting weight for Black voters. 

The redistricting special session began on July 17, during which the committee convened. A Reapportionment Committee of both Senate and House of Representatives discussed the redistricting for Alabama’s new congressional map after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the map was unconstitutional. 

The committee released a suggestion for the new map, the “Communities of Interest Plan,” supported by Representative Chris Pringle, for the House and Senate to review on Monday afternoon.

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On July 19, the House of Representatives and Senate met to debate the new map and make their vote. The Senate was scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Many came forward to give their feedback on the reapportionment committee’s congressional map.

Many minority party members argued that the new district map does not comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s requirement to have two majority black congressional maps. The new map currently has only one majority Black congressional district, district 7.

During the House meeting, Representative Christopher England, (D) Tuscaloosa, submitted a revised map that he said would comply with the U.S. Supreme Court and the Voting Rights Act of 1975. The House tabled his amendment. 

“We have more in common with the Balck Belt than we do with Baldwin County?” said Rep. Representative Barbara Drummond, (D) Mobile.

The Communities of Interest Plan map splits Lauderdale, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, Chilton, Covington and Conecuh Counties. 

Drummond was one of many representatives that argued that certain majority black counties should be associated with other counties in the Black Belt. Drummond said she believes the choice to keep Mobile and Baldwin Counties together had to do with economic interests.

“It’s not about ‘community of interest,’” Drummond said. 

Pringle fielded these questions about the “Communities of Interest Plan,” stating that he believed dividing certain counties by race would bring up a question of racial gerrymandering by the Supreme Court. 

Rep. Artis (AJ) McCampbell, (D) Pickens, spoke about the rural healthcare concerns in Pickens County, a part of the Black Belt. He said citizens of the county have struggled to make it to healthcare facilities in emergencies due to their rural area and the need for ambulances.

“This is a human health care, human being issue,” McCampbell said. “This is not about any politics issue.”

From then until July 21, the map will be introduced like any other bill and must be voted on by both the House and the Senate. The new congressional map must be submitted by July 21. 

Many Democrats in the state worry that the new suggested map will not take into account the majority black population. Whereas Republicans argue that there are many variables that will impact how the districts are drawn outside of race. 

On Aug 14, the district court hearing will take place to address any issues with the new map.